In one of the oldest and cheapest apartments in Norwich City, a ginger-haired woman sat comfortably with a foot raised on her seat as she typed in her laptop. She would sometimes touch the corner of the thick black frame of her big, round eyeglasses and push it up slightly. Those dark circles under her eyes indicated her hard work these past months.
If Leona Sandersmith didn’t glance at the time at the lower right of the screen, she wouldn’t notice that it was already two-twenty in the morning. She wrote several chapters of a thousand words and scheduled them to be published in the coming days in Wang Novels, the most famous online web novel platform and app.
At an ungodly time that most people would be sleeping, Leona was still working. That was gingeromance628’s daily life that nobody else knew. Waking up at eight and eating whatever that was left in the small fridge, Leona would open her laptop and edit her chapters while checking through reader feedback on her latest published chapters. She hardly ate lunch and used the time to outline her plots. Afterwards, she would type out her chapters until late into the night, often forfeiting dinner or eating on the go.
At first, Leona never thought that becoming a writer was a possibility for her. After all, she never had a proper education. It was merely a suggestion from her senior high school friend that compelled her to try writing with Wang Novels that welcomed both beginner and professional authors. She recalled how much time she invested in it after giving it a shot. Instead of accompanying her friends to arcades, she would spend more time at a park to write using her smartphone.
It was a rather nostalgic memory, and she couldn't believe five years passed so quickly since she embarked on this writing journey full of ups and downs. She started off writing fantasy-romance, including werewolves and vampires, because it was the trend. However, she put it on hiatus when it started feeling like a headache.
As she developed as a writer, Leona discovered that she wanted to write something that could make her feel excited about every chapter. Stories that were more logical and packed with adrenaline-pumping moments fuelled her imagination. That was how she found herself diving into the action-romance, which eventually became her turning point.
Presently, Leona was working on her latest novel [Misleading Leading Man]. It was an action romance genre with a twist. The heart-pounding excitement from writing a shooting scene between the female lead and handsome co-worker villain started to fade as tiredness seeped in. She wondered how her readers would feel after discovering that the villain was her love interest in the next few chapters. Would they feel excited or be dismayed at the revelation?
It was very interesting for her how mere words could make the readers feel different emotions. For her, it was the most amusing job, and she promised herself that she would never quit it and work harder to climb up the ranks.
Before logging out from Wang Novels, she decided to take a peek at this week’s popularity rankings. Currently, her ongoing novels are both within the top twenty-five overall rankings. Compared to Leona’s previous books, they were getting better reception, and the readers love the heart-throbbing combination of a dangerous bad boy and a strong heroine. Her loyal readers had no trouble using their Vote Tickets daily, and Leona had to keep her promise to reward her loyal voters. They deserved their mass release for helping her accomplish what would otherwise be impossible.
Wanting to know how much she earned after climbing up the popularity ranks, Leona clicked on the dollar sign icon on the upper right corner of her screen. It should be better than whatever she earned last month, right? After all, the improvement in at least twenty places from the previous month meant that more readers were finding her work. Excited to know how much she earned for the previous month, a wide grin appeared on her face.
When reality reported the numbers, those digits crashed her hopeful dreams. Sadly, Leona could only curl up on her chair as those digits mocked her for overestimating her abilities.
She refreshed the page multiple times, hoping that the numbers would rise, but they did not. Seven hundred fifty dollars… That was a number that Leona would have earned easily if she got herself a proper job. To think that she spent ten back-breaking hours on this uncomfortable chair typing until her fingers fell off for only seven hundred and fifty dollars… Leona wanted to cry. She opened the calculator app on her phone and smashed a familiar four-digit number before subtracting her income. Upon realizing that she was still too broke to buy herself a bucket of fried chicken, Leona lost all motivation to continue writing.
Too sad to sleep and too miserable to write, Leona went to the notifications page and scrolled down. Maybe she might find some reader comments that would cheer her up.
"aesopaevis" posted a chapter comment: "Cliffhanger!!! Aaaaa!"
"sk344345" posted a chapter comment: "Deym the fl is so cool!"
"sk344345" donated $1!
"kZ_000" voted for your novel, [Misleading Leading Man]
"53r4ph1n3" voted for your novel, [Lunar Eclipse: My Werewolf Lover is an Undercover Agent]
"Gun_Lord1031" voted for your novel, [Lunar Eclipse: My Werewolf Lover is an Undercover Agent]
"Gun_Lord1031" voted for your novel, [Misleading Leading Man]
"Gun_Lord1031" donated $50 to your Tip Jar!
"Gun_Lord1031" posted a chapter comment: "Nice chapter... :thumbs up:"
She smiled when he saw the username of one of her usual readers. Gun_Lord1031 was a reader who never missed a day of voting for her ongoing novels. The reader was her top fan and would leave comments on the platform's messaging window that he looked forward to the coming chapters. He was probably the only reason why Leona found the strength to continue writing what she wrote, even if it was sometimes difficult to find the motivation due to her dreary circumstances.
Her mother passed away when Leona was in the last year of senior high from a stage four lung cancer that she battled for many painful years. Due to the unpaid hospital bills and several loans, Leona had no choice but to drop out of school. Her older brother, Leonard, who was the closest one to their late mother, also dropped out of community college because of their financial circumstances. However, unlike Leona who remained practical despite her grief, Leonard turned into an unruly guy who often involved himself in fights to cope with her death and their unfortunate life.
Every month, the debtors would come to collect $3000 from Leona and her brother. Each time they failed to repay the full amount, the debtors would increase the borrowing interest. Leonard and Leona did their best to find money wherever they could to pay up but with the compounding interest, the amount only grew larger and larger.
Sometimes Leona felt that there was no light at the end of this dark tunnel. Thankfully, writing helped her look forward to another day, and her readers gave her a reason to continue struggling.
If it wasn’t for the fact that she dropped out of school without proper education, Leona would have gotten a regular job instead of writing for revenue. Even if it was only seven hundred and fifty dollars this month, it was higher than anything she could earn in a part-time job with her qualifications.
Re-reading her favourite reader’s comments, Leona yawned. It was already very late, and she had to wake up early tomorrow to meet her childhood sweetheart for breakfast. Hence, the writer decided to call it a night.
The ginger-haired writer was about to turn off the light when she heard someone knocking at the door. That was strange. Did Leonard forget his keys again? She glanced at the countertop briefly. Nope, the keys were gone.
Feeling a sense of apprehension, Leona suddenly felt very awake. They couldn’t be debtors, right? There were still four days until the next repayment period.
As it was an old apartment, the door was shabbily made without peepholes. Leona swallowed nervously and grabbed the nearest sturdy object that happened to be a heavy umbrella as she unlocked the door cautiously.
The moment there was a crack of light from the opening of the door, Leona was pushed back by a huge force, falling onto the ground with the umbrella rolling to a side.
Four men dressed smartly in black suits barged into her apartment and pointed guns at her.